Second Place Winner

Jessica Wallach, Carnegie Mellon University.

Photo of Muscat, Oman by Jessica Wallach.

Photo of Muscat, Oman by Jessica Wallach.


When I first got to Oman, I was extremely focused on studying Arabic. I was paying to study, not be a tourist. It wasn’t until a trip to the desert that I opened my eyes to my surroundings.
Something in the desert changed me. I had never been in a place with such wide open spaces and so many stars. I live a frantic, shallow life in college. I’m constantly thinking about the future instead of seeing what’s in front of me. It’s impossible to continue that mindset in the desert. Your ego floats away in that much space.
In the middle of infinite dunes, I wasn’t thinking about my homework or if my credits would transfer.
The desert has seen millions of camels leave tracks along its surface but it is larger than the caravans that cross it and it swallows everything that life leaves behind. Such is the world we live in: it is larger than us and it will eventually swallow everything we work so hard to produce. What’s truly important is experiencing this beautiful world for its own sake, because it is bigger and more elegant than anything we could ever make.